Both a love letter and a lament to London and its obscene housing crisis, In Memory of Leaves is an intensely personal one-woman show exploring love, loss and gentrification. Performed on a boat that will cruise the canals of London, this play touches on poignant themes to varying degrees of effectiveness; but Natasha Langridge remains stoic, raw and likeable throughout.
Edging down the steep, narrow staircase that leads into the Fordham Gallery barge, the evening was automatically set up to be a fun one. It is a unique space, with wood panelled walls and floor and fairy lights strung around the perimeters, bare but cosy and deliberately intimate.
The canal side setting could have simply been a gimmick (and I would have been pretty happy with that) but Natasha ties form to function seamlessly by asking who- aside from the super rich- can afford to live in London these days, if they don’t turn to a life on water? London house prices have risen over 86% since 2009, and more and more people are turning to the canals for affordable homes. The stage therefore felt topical and relevant- any novelty ‘I’m on a boat’ sentiments were artistically justified.
Langridge rails against the Tories and other evils that drove her out of her home in 2014. The elegiac and rather touching title, In Memory of Leaves, refers in large part to the execution of her beloved cherry blossom tree. The tree had lived just outside her window her whole life until workers who were building an astronomically expensive development on her former home, cruelly demolished it.
Langridge should also be commended for confronting certain dark thoughts that many wouldn’t dare to confess. After visiting the Calais jungle, she confesses wanting to go back to “my nice white house with my balcony”, and develops a degree of sympathy for the self-serving politicians who like to ignore troubling and inconvenient truths. Langridge weaves into this the story of her own love life, the estranged boyfriend in Korea and “drama lover” at home.
It has to be said that her quieter moments of rumination are more powerful than the outbreaks; the closeness and acoustics of the boat did not lend itself to shouting. Also, while I respected her confrontation of uncomfortable, irrational feelings of hatred, I felt it was a little misplaced and overstated at times.
In Memory of Leaves played at Meanwhile Gardens until October 21 2017. Find out more about Fordham Gallery here.
Photo: Yui Mok